When the weather takes a turn for the freezing exercise routines often go into hibernation mode.  They key to continued winter workouts?  According to Michelle Segar, PhD, Director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, you must flip your thinking.

Understand the “whys” behind your exercise habits.  Research shows if you’re exercising for some future clinical goal, losing weight or lowering cholesterol for example, exercise feel like a chore.  Motivation for movement comes by thinking of exercise in a whole new way.

Think of Exercise As An Elixir

Learn to exercise because you want to, not because you have to.

“We’ve been taught to think about physical activity as a bitter pill or body sculpting tool, instead of a way to relax, nurture ourselves, have fun, be social, and just be” she said.  Segar suggests focusing on how great you will feel after exercise as motivation to exercise.  “We want to exercise because it lets us regroup and refuel.”

Toss Out Rules to Work Around Weather

“Don’t stick to your exercise plan when the weather or your schedule changes. Make your plans fit you and your life’s needs not the other way around.  Be flexible!” said Segar. “Nothing else in life is never-changing, why should your exercise be?”  The answer?  “Build exercise into your complex life. Toss out the rules about how hard, how long, and how much you need to sweat, and find opportunities to move (she calls them OTMs in her book). Segar points out that there’s a growing body of research to indicate that all physical movement counts, so shoveling snow or ice skating with friends can be as good for you as that spin class.

Do What You Love

“Do what makes you feel good” Segar insists. We each like different flavors of ice cream, different movies, and people.  In the same way that we discover what we like in those things, we identify what we like and want to get out of being physically active.”

She also suggests stop comparing your exercise routines to others.  “What feels good to one person is different than another. Sweating feels good to some but not to others”.

Segar’s research shows that exercising for internal reasons, like quality of life, as opposed to external, such as the number on the scale, yields much more success.  So flip your exercise thinking this winter, and all yearlong.